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Hot Rod is…wait for it…legendary!

February 1, 2010

While searching for video of the halftime ceremony honoring Hot Rod, I came across a couple of things that were published/uploaded when West Virginia University retired his jersey a week ago.

First, there was a fantastic post chronicling Hot Rod’s life. He grew up an abandoned child bouncing from home to home, and the story talks about Hot Rod living in a makeshift room underneath a staircase as a kid and keeping his own scorecard while listening to WVU games on the radio.

In college, he once wanted to get into a game so he got the fans sitting around the bench to start a “We Want Hundley!” chant that was picked up by the entire arena. Sure enough, his [grinning] coach caved and sent him back into the game. But wait, there’s more. He wanted to make sure that he was the game’s leading scorer, so he asked the stat guys who was the next leading scorer, and insisted on subbing in for that guy.

The story is full of anecdotes including how Hot Rod decided to go out and get the school’s scoring record one night, which he did so by scoring 54 points (on 48 shots), how he dropped out of school to try out for the Globetrotters, and how he convinced the Bulls announcer to replace his wardrobe with “wild-looking Quiana and Dacron shirts with the concentric circles and other far-out patterns that were popular in the seventies.” Interestingly enough, Hot Rod’s first play-by-play gig, which was for the Suns, was alongside Johnny Kerr, who was Jerry’s former teammate (Bullets) and coach (Bulls).

We all loved the way Hot Rod called games because he enabled you to visualize what was happening on the court, and because he was always objective. What role did LHM play in that?

When Hundley was doing TV games for the New Orleans [sic?] Jazz in the late 1970s, team owner Larry Miller was known to watch the games with the volume turned down on his television set. He was too afraid to hear what Hundley might say.

“I was more of a tell-it-like-it-is guy back then and he said, ‘You’re getting on our team too much.’ And he was right,” Hundley said. “What I was doing was wrong because I had become a cheerleader of the team instead of calling it straight down the line. I learned from that and I would tell people that would come up to me interested in becoming a broadcaster, ‘Learn to be a fan of basketball, not a fan of your team.’ People will respect you for that. There is nothing that sounds worse than an announcer complaining about the referees.”

Read the rest here.

I also came across these videos of the jersey retirement ceremony at WVU. It was great to see that WVU fans appreciate Hot Rod as much as Jazz fans do. The best moment (at the 4:10 mark) was definitely when Hot Rod was walking off the court, and the fans started chanting “One more shot!” Someone handed HR a ball, and he threw up a from-the-waist hook shot that bounced on the rim and dropped in…and the crowd went wild (the first video is a little Blair Witch-esque in style):

From this 30-second halftime clip (worth watching for Hot Rod’s reaction after hitting the shot alone), you can see that WVU was actually down 28-40 at the break. After Hot Rod’s shot, WVU outscored its opponent 43-25 in the second half to win the game 71-65.

Thanks to Hot Rod (and KFAN and the Internet), I was able to “watch” Jazz games before video streams were available. Hot Rod, honestly, you wouldn’t believe how much fans (myself included, of course) miss you…all the best to you in your retirement. You truly are a legend.

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 1, 2010 8:58 am

    I really like hearing about the story of Hot Rod growing up as an abandoned child and keeping score of the Mountaineer games while listening to them on the radio. Hearing that as a Mountaineer fan (like many others) shows who close to his heart WVU really is, this story is pretty much a rags to riches story. It really amazes and shows how possible it is to start with nothing and gain so much. This is something that can really inspire a lot of people.

    I think that hook shot Hot Rod made at half time, as you mentioned, really put the magic back in the Coliseum and the team worked as hard as Hot Rod did to get to where he is today, to earn that win against Ohio State.


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